Samuel Johnson, the eighteenth-century English author, said that marriage was “the best state for man in general; and every man is worse in proportion as he is unfit for the married state.” Over 200 years later, many today believe that marriage is outdated or undesirable. And they think that marriage—at least as it is described in the Bible—is a raw deal for women.
One point of contention is the command in verse 23 of today’s reading. The expectation that wives should submit to their husbands seems like an archaic and even embarrassing stipulation in today’s egalitarian culture. The comparison between husbands and the Lord hardly helps matters. Is Paul saying that husbands are “lords” over their wives?
The language of headship makes it clear that the Apostle is talking about the structure of authority in the home. To say that the husband functions as head does not mean that he is superior to his wife. Submission to his leadership is not a sign of inferiority. One who submits is not necessarily subordinate. It is possible to submit to someone and still be equal. The fact that Jesus, although equal with the Father, will one day “be made subject” to the one who put everything under His feet, is proof of this (1 Cor. 15:28).
If husbands are to relate to their wives in the way that Jesus Christ relates to the church, then the context of this submission is not domineering abuse but nurturing care. This kind of leadership desires the best interest of one’s spouse. Decisions will be made after considering the point of view of the other partner. This is the kind of leadership described by the apostle Peter, when he tells husbands to be “considerate” as they live with their wives and to “treat them with respect” (1 Peter 3:7).